Launching the decade ahead

More than 140 Academy graduates and friends gathered at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver for the United States Air Force Academy Endowment’s Decade Ahead reception on March 14.

The museum includes a collection of classic war fighter aircraft dating back to World War II, housed in hangar #1 on the grounds of the former Lowry Air Force Base. The base was also the first site of the United States Air Force Academy.

Endowment President and CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Gould ’76 set the stage for the evening.

“Our purpose is twofold,” Gould told the crowd. “One, is to celebrate the accomplishments of the Endowment over its first 10 years — in other words, to celebrate the goodness of what you’ve done to help our Academy. The second purpose tonight is to look to the decade ahead. We have a lot of work to do.” 

During its first decade, the USAFA Endowment raised more than $141 million in private support for Academy projects and programs.

Gould introduced Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria ’85 who shared his vision for the future of the Air Force Academy, touching on academics, athletics, character and leadership development and military training.   

Silveria concluded his remarks with a challenge for Academy graduates to visit the Academy to encourage and inspire cadets as they chart a path into the future.

“For those of you who were chemistry majors or math majors who turned that into a master’s degree or a Ph.D. or a business, go back and talk to the cadets in that department about the difference your experience in that department made for you,” Silveria said.

“Or, if you can’t make it to Colorado Springs, then get out there and talk to some of the kids in the area and help them understand what the Academy can do for them,” Silveria said. “We’re changing lives and it’s remarkable to see the young men and women who are still walking up that ramp to serve our nation.”

  See all event photos

Highlighting the importance of private philanthropy in the development of the Air Force Academy, Berit Campion, chairman of the Johnson Foundation of the Rockies, shared the history of her family’s involvement through the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, established by her great-grandparents in 1948.

“Both of my great-grandparents learned early on about the importance of giving back to their community and practiced doing so throughout their lives,” Campion said. “They gave generously to projects close to their hearts, USAFA among them.” 

In 2015 the Johnson Foundation gave a $6 million legacy grant to the Academy to endow a chair for its leadership development programs – the Helen and Arthur Johnson Chair for the Study of the Profession of Arms.  

“I am humbled to learn that was one of the largest private gifts in Academy history,” Campion said.

max miller

Among the event’s guests was a group of ’59ers — members of the first Academy graduating class of 1959 — including Max Miller, Larry Fortner and Edwin Montgomery.

“I took the oath on the field right outside those hangar doors,” said Miller, pointing to the movable glass walls at the far end of the museum.

“We were in our uniforms and came marching in. We weren’t half bad,” he said with a smile.

Miller and the first graduating class of 207 cadets set the example for the nearly 50,000 men and women who have since become part of the Long Blue Line.

Representing the future of the Academy, a group of 15 cadets joined the reception. 

Faculty, researchers and cadets from the Academy’s Warfighter Effectiveness Research Center also attended, accompanied by two robots and a Tesla vehicle that are being used in war fighter research. The robots, Pepper and Nao, interacted with guests to demonstrate the center’s research on human-machine teaming.

The decade ahead for the Academy includes advanced research into self-flying F-16s, cybersecurity, satellites, unmanned aircraft systems, chemical engineering, and a host of other projects coordinated through the Academy’s 21 research centers and institutes.

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